I totally agree! I went to a book festival in Lampeter where the author and book were presented when it was newly published, so I decided to buy it and I LOVED it. I really felt like I knew the characters.
This week I read Igam Ogam by Ifan Morgan Jones. It was reviewed briefly by @Davids in his epic list last year, but I thought I’d write a little bit more about it.
Loosely translated from the back cover:
“When Tomos Ap gets a call from his adopted father calling him home, he suspects that the plan is to force him to take over the family farm. But with Nature himself trying to buy the place, a bus load of archdruids on the way, and something suspicious lurking under the standing stone in the field, he’s got more than a couple of sheep to worry about…”
I have to say, I really really enjoyed this book. The best comparison I can come up with is to say it’s in the style of Terry Pratchett, but in a distinctly Welsh context. It’s also the first silly book I’ve read in months, and it’s such a relief to laugh out loud.
Here’s a flavour of it:
One of [the druids] came to the mound, pointing his finger threateningly in Tomos’s direction. “Get out of here. You’re not supposed to be here.” His voice was like thunder.
“You’ve put your tent on top of our ceremonial site,” said another accusingly. He had a huge sword in his hand. “Go away… Now!”
“Could you move the tent a little bit?” said a girl’s voice. You can join us if you want. We’re going to have a fire and roast marshmallows. "
“But he’s not a member of the Gorsedd,” protested the man with a voice like thunder.
“You’re only an ovate, Dilwyn,” said the girl. Don’t be so snooty. And you’re not supposed to threaten people with the sword of piece!"
In summary really recommend if Terry Pratchett is up your street. It’s also comparatively short at 190 pages and not too hard once you’ve acquired the vocab of standard fantasy fare anyway, so worth taking a punt on if you’re not sure.
So, I thought I’d read reviews of Fel Aderyn by Manon Steffan Ros on here, but the search tool isn’t finding anything so here goes.
If you’ve read Blasu or Llanw then this will feel very familiar to you in theme and style. Set in Tywyn, it follows the lives of several generations of women across the twentieth century. However unlike Blasu and Llanw it isn’t chronological, flipping back and forth in time to give us a window into each character’s life.
For learners this is both a pro and a con: on the plus side each chapter is fairly self-contained so if you’re thoroughly confused you can move on, however on the downside part of the joy of the book is piecing the family history together, and that’s hard when you’re also decoding the language.
I wouldn’t recommend for a brand new learner or new reader as it is aimed at native speakers, but I would say accessible to someone at Uwch level.
The review on the cover says “The love between mother and daughter flows like warm mead throughout this novel” and that’s an excellent description. Although there are very poignant scenes, there is an abiding warmth throughout the book which made it a very enjoyable read.
I don’t think Martha, Jack a Sianco has been reviewed in this thread, though I was sure @Cetra had reviewed. It’s been referred to in a few other threads about the adaptation, but not here as far as I can tell, so here goes.
This is written by acclaimed author Caryl Lewis, who has subsequently been a writer on Hinterland/Y Gwyll and Hidden/Craith.
If you’ve seen either of these dramas you probably won’t be surprised to hear it falls into the Welsh literary and dramatic genre of “bad things happen on isolated farms”. Martha, Jac and Sianco are middle-aged siblings still running the family farm the same way they always have, never having married or moved away. I’ll let you guess which particular bad things happen…
I read this because it won book of the year in 2005, but I have to admit I much prefer my stories of dark doings embedded in a police procedural after the fact, instead of shouting at my book as depressing events inevitably unfold before me. However plenty of other people must disagree as it’s a popular book and it’s been both translated to English and made into a film. Personally I enjoyed the last third more than the first two, when events sped up and it all started to come together.
Not one for beginners, but reasonably straightforward if you’re an experienced reader. The story takes place over the course of a year, narrated from Martha’s perspective so you’re not trying to put a jigsaw puzzle together, as with some MSR books. Lots of agricultural vocab but you can skim over a lot of that without missing the plot.
The film version is on s4c at the moment.
A change of pace next: Gawn Ni Stori? by John Owen Huws
Yes, of course I want a story! I loved, loved, loved this book. I actually know very little of Wales’ history or legends, and this was a great collection to lose myself in.
It’s written as a storybook for children so has a really nice storytelling style that was absolutely what I needed right now. It would make a great gift for kids, grandkids or friends attending Welsh medium school. It’s nicely illustrated as well.
Here’s a loose translation of the start of one story, to give a flavour of the style:
Wales has lots of heroes who have saved our country from various crises over the years - brave men like Arthur, the two Llywelyns and Owain Glyndŵr. There are also well-known heroes such as Gwenllian and Jemeima Niclas among the women.
Jemeima saved Wales from being ground under the heel of the French when an army of them attacked Syr Benfro two hundred years ago. Interestingly, she managed to do it with a group of women after the local army fled for their lives! Would you like to hear the whole story? Well, here it is. …
Sadly this isn’t one for beginners, because although the sentences are short, there’s quite a lot of literary language: - wyd passives and “y” and “a” in places they’re not used in every day speech. Plus of course the vocab of myths, legends and heroes.
However it’s absolutely accessible to anyone who’s already reading books for first language speakers. I’d also say worth a go if you’re Uwch or possibly upper Canolradd. And it’s got lots of lovely useful phrases in it as well, which will make your anecdotes much more fluent!
And another one for those with access to Welsh speaking kids: Straeon o’r Mabinogi by Mererid Hopwood.
This was a lot easier to read than Gawn Ni Stori, so although I wouldn’t make it your first book, definitely more accessible than many.
The book has illustrations on every page, which will help you get over the vocab hump and figure out words like “shield” “cauldron” and “cobbler”.
I didn’t find this quite as engrossing as the collection above, but really did enjoy getting familiar with some of the key stories. The story of Blodeuwedd in particular seems to be everywhere in the books I’ve read so it was great to read the story itself (or at least a simplified retelling!).
Written Welsh tuition book
Much to my surprise, Ar Drywydd Llofrudd by Alun Davies doesn’t seem to have been reviewed here either, although I’m sure I’ve heard loads of people mention it.
I wanted to give it a shout out because I found it utterly gripping. Seriously, go-to-bed-too-late-because-I-have-to-finish-this gripping.
In addition, unlike a lot of the common “first first language books” e.g. Bethan Gwanas or Manon Steffan Ros, which are very relationship-and family-oriented, this is a straight police procedural, so might appeal to a different audience.
It is for first language speakers, so not for a complete beginner, but I barely noticed I was reading in Welsh for chapters at a time so I think it would be fairly accessible to anyone with some reading under their belt, particularly with a dictionary app to hand. The great thing about crime novels is that ultimately they’re really predictable so life experience can help you along through linguistic challenges.
Unfortunately I didn’t buy the other two books in the trilogy at the same time.
I’ve read dadeni too. Really enjoyed it.
Y Stori Orau by Lleucu Roberts
This won the prose language medal at the 2021 Eisteddfod.
Swyn and her mother are on a road trip, taking the old VW round Wales, visiting old haunts and places they’ve always wanted to see. And that’s really what this story is about, a mother and a daughter and their relationship. Although there’s a sting in the tail, I thought this was ultimately a warm and joyous book, which makes a change compared to a lot of books I’ve read recently!
It’s for native speakers but I think it should be fairly accessible to learners with a bit of experience and willingness to go with the gist rather than every word. Certainly easier than Llyfr Glas Nebo, which was my first “proper Welsh” book. It’s Southern Welsh as well (but not too strong), whereas a lot of the recommended first books are Northern (Bethan Gwanas and Manon Steffan Ros).
Yes, I bought this when we were on holiday in Cereidigion last year and quite by chance discovered this little Welsh bookshop in Cardigan / Aberteifi. The fact that the stories are quite short but interesting (and, as often in fairy tales and legends, not always predictable) makes it useful when you’re not quite an absolute beginner but still not quite ready for proper novels…
Clywais ar Radio Cymru yn ddiweddar fod Llyfr Glas Nebo bellach ar gael yn Saesneg os oes gan unrhyw un ddiddordeb
Manwerthwyr eraill ar gael!